Paul Insect is ANTI

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Photography by : Ken Caruso & Paul Insect

Text by : Ken Caruso

January 4, 2015

Damn this is going to be a long read folks, so buckle down and put your fucking seat belts on….I’ve been waiting for almost a year from the start of our e-mails, to the moment I could finally sit down with Sir Paul and ask him some questions.

The last time he was in New York, he was too busy, fucking around with his artistic soul mate, Bast. And working on a project at the Gavin Brown Enterprise with Afrika Bambaataa. So after crying myself to sleep for months, those moons and stars finally aligned and I was able to set up an interview. It was a few days after the opening of Paul’s new show “2033″ at the Allouche Gallery, Soho. After driving around for a few hours and trying a few places to find a quite spot, we ended up starting the interview at Bast studio, since we had almost got ourselves into a dust up at the local bar/pool hall (but i’ll save that story for a rainy day). Anyway, four questions in, and my mini-recorder was full up, and i had no memory left. “FUUUUUUUUUUUCK,” I let out loudly, just as Bast walks in. “Are you guys done yet? … Kid who are you? Barbara Fucking Walters??” (Kid or G is a favourite nickname from Bast) “How long is this going to take, cause I want to make some work today?” “We’re done,” I said. “My tape has ended.” So I got bummed out, but Paul promised we could meet up again the next day and finish the interview then. I’m thinking the threat of Hari Kari convinced him to clear his schedule. All he wants to do is make some work and not listen to me. FFFUUCCKKK this tape recorder!! I’m now thinking, will he turn up tomorrow?

I was first drawn to Paul Insects work when I saw his “Dunce Boy” print (check out “Dunce Boy in Palestine” below). I love skulls but this image was so heavy and spoke to me with all the high school shootings that were happening at that time.

Fast forward to 2012 when Paul did his one man show “Out of Chaos” at the then Opera Gallery. His images from that show “Clockwork Britain” and “Clockwork America” were so fresh I had to buy one of them myself. I was able to get this badass studio test with the help from my friend below.

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Then a year later when I began blogging for ANTI Society I started hitting up all of the artist that I loved and respected. Paul Insect was on my fucking “MUST” list… (This is how it all went down)

When we first started e-mailing and I was begging you for an interview. You would be kind by saying, I’m a bit busy right now, but email me next month and I’ll have a think. Finally you came around with an interesting exchange. You wanted us to make a mixtape together and talk more about music rather than the usual art questions. I told you, “Bro I don’t care if you want to talk about tomato soup, just let me interview you, and I’ll make you look like the greatest soup chef ever.” Thank god he chose music… its a lot easier to come up with questions.

So at the time you asked me to send you 12 tracks that I loved, I didn’t realize that you were going to match each one of my songs with a pretty obscure band that had a track which literally matched my track in vibe, tempo and feeling. Now I’m pretty proud of my eclectic musical catalogue, but your tunes stumped even me. (Check out the mixed tape at the end of the read.) So, to my first musical question my friend…

What was the first record you ever bought?

First 7″ was called “Break Dance Machine” and the first album I paid cash for was, Talking Heads “Remain in Light”

Excellent choice I have that hanging on my wall of fame in my studio. So what was the music of choice growing up?

That would be electronic and Hip-Hop, anything with a beats and strange sounds would grab me.

First concert?

1986 at Wembley Arena, it was a show called “UK Fresh 86″, where Afrika Bambaataa headlined,
along with the likes of LL Cool J, Mantronix, Love Bug Starsky and a bunch of early electronic hip hop heads.

Wow that’s so ironic because I had a question that I was going to spring on you later but nows the perfect time.
Over the summer you designed a print for Afrika Bambaataa’s show he was a part of called “Born in the Bronx”.
How did a Englishman get the nod to design that and did you colab on the print with him or did he give you total creative license?

It came from my friend DJ Shadow and the work he was doing with Cut Chemist for there Renegades of Rhythm Tour, in conjunction with
the NY archivist and publishers Boo-Hooray. They were just preparing for a new tour using only original dub plates and records from Bambaataas personal record collection. I had images by the photographer Jo Conzo that I could use, along with other reference material, and had total creative license from all sides to do what ever I wanted. The only brief from Shadow was it had to be an image of Bam. When I met Bambaataa in the Summer, he gave his seal of approval and called it “Funky Fresh.”

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Your Desert Island album?

Led Zeppelin Best Of, fully digitally re-mastered limited edition box set version edition etc blah blah. Did I just say that?

Yep, I heard it, wrote it, and can’t believe you snuck a box set in there.

But Ken, how do you expect me to play this album on a desert island? Where does the power come from?

Dude focus…Don’t over analyze my shit.. I never claimed to be good at this interview fluff. I need another coffee, you want another coffee?

No thanks, haven’t you had enough?

OK, what is the one album cover that sticks in your mind that you thought was amazing?

Screamadelica by Primal Scream pops into my mind right at this moment in time, it was the sound track to my first visit to New York back in 1991.

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Ok what are you listening to now?

Well you know from my list it can be quite eclectic..

Yeah I do.

I listen to anything and everything really. I love old African Funk music, Hip Hop, Electro, Bowie, Detroit Techno, Funk, Dub, Grime, Toothpaste beatz, Earwax Jams, Carpet fluff step (all the rage in London)… But at the core it’s still Hip-Hop beats and hard electronic grinding beats.

Ok Paul since we’re on the vinyl portion of our interview, I want to bring up the subject matter that you spilled on me over dinner the other evening, which I think is fucking Amazing.

Do you mean And Vinyly?

Yes Sir.

Its a website called Andvinyly.com which was set up by a friend of mine about 8 years ago who came up with the concept one night in the pub.

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Oh right of course.. That explains it (laughing).

OK, Were offering a service where, after you pop your clogs (die), we can press some of your ashes (if you decide to be cremated) into a limited vinyl record that has the soundtrack of your choice, which you pick before you die of course.

You choose the music for each side, which would be the sound track of you life, so to say. We will, on receiving some of your ashes, print up a limited amount of records required to be given to your friend”s and family after your death. Simple really.

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I think that is a beautiful idea and quite unique.

Yeah you can “Rave from the Grave” (both laughing).

So have you had any of the people who signed up pass away yet?

Sadly, yes. Vinyl history was made a few months ago.

Oh really…?

Yes.. I mean, its an idea and website that was started up years ago, quite a lot of people signed up back then. Wired Magazine ran a thing on the project, it had a lot of press for a year, obviously people have kept signing up, but sadly you do need someone to die for the concept to work! So, yes, the first album, has just been made. One of the clients sadly passed away, but all went ahead as planned. My friend Jason received the ashes from the deceased family and then 30 records were pressed up for his family and friends, as requested by the deceased. The album contains some great tracks… Bowie, The Clash, Madness etc… His favorite music, his soundtrack.

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Right…. so, where do I sign up again? That’s incredible Paul I seriously love that whole concept. Ok Sir, now to the art portion of this interview. What was the pivotal moment that you remember thinking “I want to be an artist?”

I know seeing Style Wars in 1984 made something click inside of me. And from that moment I did not look back.

That’s amazing because it seams that a lot of artists I’ve interviewed have cited that as a “light bulb” in their tunnel. Ben Eine, Nick Walker, D*Face and Anthony Lister to name a few.

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It was seeing a whole new subculture born from an inner city life, New York painting, graffiti, clothes, break dancing which all sat side by side with a new music movement. I was 14, and did not know what I was going to do with myself. It spoke to me, I started writing on things outside and spinning on my back between lessons at school.

Love it. All right Paul are you a night owl or early bird when it comes to creating?

I’m a night owl when it comes to painting. I can get to the studio at around 9:00am and finally get around to putting brush to canvas at around 5:00pm.

It takes that fucking long?

Sometimes… It depends on what I’m working on. I can stand there for a solid 12 hours painting some days, or, I can be at the studio wondering what color I’m going to paint a background for 6 hours, and not get anything done other than answer a few emails… Art is a strange beast.

Whats the one thing you hate about the art market?

(Laughing real hard, and spitting his almond croissant all over me) I don’t think you have enough tape left on your recorder for me to answer that question.

So your first major solo show you had “Bullion” in 2007 at the Lazarides gallery in London sold out to Mr.Damien Hirst before it even opened. What kind of pressure did that put on you going forward? I mean, after that did you feel that you had to meet a certain expectation to your fans and to Mr. Hirst himself?

Fans, you’re a funny guy Ken. There was a bit of pressure, but no, not really. But, I must admit I did push it with my next show “Poison” where I got myself into making bronze pieces. Something that I had done before, but not to this level.. Fans, really!

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Ok, ok you don’t have to beat me up. Alright Paul If you could meet one artist living or dead who would it be?

I would really love to hang out with George Condo for a day, or a week.. depending if he has the time or not.

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George Condo? Damn I can help you make that happen. His last show was amazing. Anyway what is the first question you would ask him?

If you could meet one artist living or dead who would it be?

(Laughing my ass off) Touché brother.

Where was the strangest or wildest place you ever painted?

Theres been plenty, but Palestine in 2007 for Santa’s Ghetto Christmas show was pretty different… We had quite a few hair raising moments there.

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Tell me more.

I’ll save that also for your “Rainy Day” story.

Who is one of your contemporaries that you are just in awe of and makes you push yourself harder?

My best friend, and NY Crab Shack King, Basto.

Excellent because that’s another question I had in the queue… You two seem to be these artistic soulmates, maybe even twins separated at birth that always have a blast when your together. Actually his name might as well be BLAST because that’s all I’ve ever had with him. How did you meet him?

I’ve known of Bast for years. But we only really hooked up four years ago and started to make some work together.

Really, because your bond seems to be so tight. I mean, when I’ve been out with Bast, he would always speak highly of you and how much fun you two would have together.

We have a lot in common I suppose. First thing is a passion to make work, second thing is beer and oysters. Something just clicked between the two of us.

Probably because your both “MAD” geniuses.

How kind you are Ken. Bast is a genius. A true New Yorker, and an inspiration to many. I suppose we gel and were on the same side of the page. It’s about keeping it loose, coming up with a fresh idea in the morning, keeping it fun, and having it finished by the time the first bar is opening. Its all good fun.

And trust me, they do have FUN! Maybe a little too much FUN! So much so, that I actually am jealous of said fun. You see, I volunteered my services one morning, to take them out and help search for the trash they needed for there next idea. Bast insists that all the materials they use have to be found on the street. None of this going-to-the-Depot to buy wood or paint. So a-hunting we did go. They both jumped into my Batmobile and I was directed to drive over to Queens. He knows what areas to search for specific items on their shopping list. So, after a few fruitless stops, we end up behind a Chinese Food market, and this time it was very fruitful (no pun intended). The drive over was better than any comedy episode I have ever watched, and while they both dumpster dived looking through greasy chicken boxes, finding dead Rats, mice, and even a flattened squirrel the jokes just kept on rolling. To say they both have a great sense of humor is an understatement, really. Adults aren’t suppose to have this much fun…are they? Fast forward to their Instagram post that night, and you can see why these two geniuses have a laugh creating some of the coolest contemporary art out there.

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Ok Paul I’d like to talk about your newest show going on now called “2033″ at the beautiful Allouche gallery in Soho. Your new work is beautiful and you’ve taken your now trademarked portraits and pushed the envelop with them. They seem more detailed, more intense, even more solitaire. We’ve even spoke about the deconstruction phase that you’re going through. Tell me a little about that direction.

I’m still developing the portrait paintings but I just want to try to meld those two things together and try to end up somewhere that I’m happy with. That’s just were its going right now. But elements of this deconstruction are definitely finding their way into the paintings. I mean the whole show is about pretty much the way people live today hiding behind a digital mask. You know you can portray an image of yourself which doesn’t actually portray the real image of you at all.

Like filters?

P) Yeah, they’re good for polishing up turds. With social networking, you can lie about where you are, you can post things that you never did and you can project a false reality of your life. That’s why I’ve masked these people off and it’s all about their expressions, its about thinking about the future. We’re gradually consuming all our materials and resources the earth has to offer. There will come a time when there is just no more room for us. I think that’s why there’s a futuristic theme to the show. Meteors, abstract landscapes, we’re all looking further than our moon these days. By the way, none of the people in my paintings are famous and could still be alive.

Ok then which one is me?

(Laughing) Ha ha ha. One day, we’ll see.

Fine, I’ll just tell people it’s me… I can do the same thing on Instagram. Post my fake portrait by Sir Paul.

(Still laughing) Now you’ve got it.

Ok Paul last question my friend. What have you got cooking up next?

A few things are in the pipeline, but first off is finding a new studio to work out of. I was kicked out of my last studio five days before coming to New York. Hopefully find time to make some more work with Bast, oh, and theres a big project that I must tell you about…

Hold on Paul… FUUUUccckkkkkkk!!! My recorder is out of memory again…(click)

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I would like to thank @paulinsect for his time, patience, and new found friendship. Thank you to @georgebenias, director of @allouchegallery in NYC for helping to make this possible, @ericallouche for having faith in me and @bastny for his kindness and friendship. Make sure you check out Paul’s show at Allouche Gallery which runs till January 11,2015.

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Ken Caruso is the ANTI Society’s in-house street art and photography expert. He is a decorative artist and owner and operator of Alternative Interiors in New Jersey as well as an avid collector and graffiti hunter. He also has his own radio show on Friday nights “Live…Without a net” on chestnutradio.com. Follow him on Instagram @djkcaruso.